Wigan Council in the UK has become one of the first authorities to take steps to connect social care and health information, having electronically uploaded NHS numbers from the NHS Strategic Tracing Service (NSTS) to its Anite SWIFT back-office social care information system.
The move populates all clients with their validated NHS numbers from the same source as NHS partners. It is the first step toward integrating with the NHS Spine, which is the national database of key patient information, to ensure joined-up health and social care working and joint commissioning, according to the Council.
By 2010, every registered NHS patient in England, more than 50 million, will have an electronic healthcare record. Each record will comprise full local records held on a computer where treatment is provided and a summary record of important details both demographic (such as name and address) and medical (for instance allergies, medication) held on the NHS Spine. Local records will automatically upload important information to the summary record on the Spine.
The Connecting for Health program does not currently extend to social care systems run by local authorities, but Wigan Council has taken the first step to enable such integration in the future.
We’ve long recognized that further down the line social care departments will need to integrate fully with the NHS Spine to share patient information safely, efficiently and accurately, said Steve Corns, service manager (IT) of the Department of Adult Services, Wigan Council. It will mean that wherever and whenever a patient seeks care, those treating them will have secure access to summary information and the care plan to assist with diagnosis and care.
The Council used integration technology from Anite to securely import NHS numbers for over 76,000 current social care clients from the NSTS into SWIFT and ICS, removing the risk of human error and time associated with manual inputting. As a result, the Council said it has ensured that almost 100% of its adult and child clients are accurately matched to their records using validated NHS numbers as the unique ID for all health and social care clients.
The NHS number is the key to effective information sharing and the integration of systems between the NHS and partner organizations to support a string of national and local health and social care initiatives such as the electronic health record, said Bernard Walker, director of adult services for Wigan Council. This is a huge step towards realizing the vision of seamless patient care.